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The Short Story ''Action And Reaction'' by Kamala Markandaya

Shawindi is a writer who is still learning and she believes that we are learning throughout our lives. Learning is the way to live!


About the Story.

This is a short story written by Chithra Fernando. The short story is taken by the book named ''Three Women'' which is published in 1948. The author is a Sri Lankan. Action And Reaction is one of the stories in the above book. There are some permanent characters in the story. They are, Mahinda, Elder aunt, Kusuma, Younger aunt and Mala. In the story Sri Lankan culture and religious believes are described. In most of the times the believes those characters are believing, are true but they have understood about them in a wrong way specially Elder aunt. These people are doing meritorious works for a competition, not to reach enlightenment which is described in Buddhism.

Chitra Fernando had used the language in a specific way for Sri Lankans. Most of the times she had used Sinhala words such as Kade (boutique), Nanda (aunty) and much more.

'Elder Aunt' In the Short Story.

Elder aunt is a middle aged woman who has rejected the traditional family life. Her lifestyle is influenced by her belief and her understanding about the Buddhist principles-Karmic-law. According to her point of view, all good actions will be rewarded whereas all bad actions will be punished.

'Kusuma'' In the Short Story.

She is brought to Elder aunt's house when she was in the age of 12, to be adopted, not as a daughter but as a servant. Elder aunt takes care of her, providing food, shelter, clothes and some other needs. It says that Elder aunt even saves some money in Kusuma's account. In return, Kusuma does all household chores at Elder aunt's place and receives the skill of crocheting. Elder aunt never teaches her reading and writing. Elder aunt's constant guide in life, Karmic-law is manifested through Kusuma becomes a replica of Elder aunt when Kusuma establishes a certain power at Elder aunt's place.


  • Becomes a blind follower of religious practices.
  • Dominates Elder aunt by being involved in donations to the temple without even accepting Elder aunt's contribution to the meritorious acts.
  • Exploits Elder aunt, alliterating her with meager food.
  • Overpowers Elder aunt by collecting money for meritorious deeds at Elder aunt's expense.

'Mahinda' In the Short Story.

Mahinda is the omniscient narrator in the story. He is the nephew of Elder aunt, a co-protagonist of the story. Parallel to the development of the story, readers see Mahinda's physical and intellectual development throughout the story. At the outset, Mahinda seems to believe everything the society told him about Elder aunt. But gradually with his exposure to events outside Payagala(a village in Sri Lanka)and with his exposure to the world through his graduation and education, his thaughts become more logical : he gains clear insight into the relationship between Elder aunt and Kusuma. At the end of the story Mahinda seems to sympathize with Elder aunt but he never takes any action to help Elder aunt's plight. Mahinda, thus, ends up being a person who is critically aware of exploitation and hypocrisy coated with piousness. He, nevertheless, remains the silent observer who takes no action against injustice and hypocrisy.

'Mala', Mahinda's Sister In the Short Story.

Although, she is seemingly a minor character, her voice seems to represent the younger generation, who might have protested against the exploitation experienced by women characters. Although her shrewd child attempt to accompany Kusuma expressing the idea that marriage is a right of Kusuma's but, neither Mala nor Mahinda succeed in convencing others.

Narrative Techniques.

Chitra Fernando has employed one of the characters (Mahinda)of the story to narrate the relationship between the two character-Elder aunt and Kusuma. The narrative technique used by the author makes the story significant in two main ways.

First, Fernando' employment of a character neither too close to the protagonists nor too distant from the protagonists adds reliability to the characterization of the story. Mahinda's character is also developed through minor characters' views as well. That is Mahinda always substantiates his narration bringing the opinions of society, represented by his father, mother and Younger aunt of the story. This technique helps the author to authenticate the narrator's voice.

Secondly, readers notice Mahinda's development as a narrator his reasoning ability indrawing the portrait of Elder aunt and Kusuma. Being an adult narrator, Mahinda at the outset of the story, is seen recalling his memories; Through these, he describes how other adults around him like his parents influenced him to create a virtuous impression of Elder aunt in him. He shows the influence of his mother and father too. However through Mahinda's omniscient, unbiased narration, the readers are able to understand Elder aunt without being prejudiced by the comments of others.

The development of Mahinda's character is presented through the following stage of his life:

  • As a small boy when he is exposed only to Payagala and his relatives in the village.
  • As a daughter- when he is exposed to his peers.
  • As a university-entrance student bring exposed to Colombo and Payagala.
  • As a university student.
  • As a postgraduate student outside Sri Lanka and with his education.

    Mahinda's physical development coincide with his understanding of the character of Elder aunt and her actions. It is very significant in the story as it really deals with the understanding of the main issues of the story - Karmic-law, piety and inequity simultaneously existent in human beings in different quantities, as a result of their limited understanding of religion.

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Action And Reaction.

As this short story is based in Sri Lanka and because of that in this story some of the words are confusing. Chitra Fernando has used some Sinhala expressions to make the story familiar to Sri Lankans. The short story is based in a village in Sri Lanka named Payagala. Though the story is a bit confusing, it includes a great story.

Action And Reaction is actually a short story that was written according to Sri Lankan peoples' lives. Reading this short story will give you an idea of how the people followed their religions as blind followers. According to the short story, sometimes people were connected with their religions just for a show off. But as a person who has a good knowledge and someone going on with the modernization in the world, Mahinda plays his role in the story.

I hope this will be helpful for all of you and hope this short story will give you a good experience. And also if there are something need to be changed or developed please tell me!

Have a nice day !

Stay Safe !


Shawindi Silva (author) from Sri lanka on August 23, 2020:

You're welcome and thank you for stopping by!!

Dr Pran Rangan from Kanpur (UP), India on August 23, 2020:

Nice review, thanks

Shawindi Silva (author) from Sri lanka on August 23, 2020:

Thank you Danny and hope you gained some knowledge.

Danny from India on August 23, 2020:

Very captivating and engrossing read.

Shawindi Silva (author) from Sri lanka on August 23, 2020:

Thank you - MG Singh I'm glad that you enjoyed.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on August 23, 2020:

Nice introduction to this writer. You have written a very good review which is both interesting and captivating.

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